United has eight different airlines flying under the United Express banner owned by seven different companies. Does it really need all of those? Probably not; so it’s good to see that United will simplify a couple operations and remove one entirely. Trans States will go away toward the end of this year, and that’s a good thing. Apparently the airline has been having an awful time recruiting pilots, so this will sacrifice one arm to save its life.
There are really three regional airlines seeing changes here, but there’s a fourth that plays into this drama as well.
- Trans States will stop flying its 42 ERJ-145s and go out of business
- ExpressJet will pick up 36 ERJ-145s and stop flying its 25 Embraer 175s
- SkyWest will pick up 25 Embraer 175s
This sounds a lot like shuffling for no good reason, but there is a method to the madness.
Trans States Goes Away, ExpressJet Gains ERJ-145s
Today, Trans States is flying 42 ERJ-145s for United. There will be 36 of those going back to ExpressJet with the rest presumably being sold off or returned to lessors.
Did I say going back? Well, yes.
Though I don’t know which of the 6 Trans States airframes won’t make it to ExpressJet, I think it’s safe to assume that the 30 ERJ-145XRs that Trans States took over from ExpressJet four to five years ago will end up going back home.
I would also assume that the three former American Eagle LRs — the only ones built prior to the year 2000 — won’t be making the trip. The other eight airplanes (all LRs) were delivered directly to Trans States in the early 2000s.
This is an orderly transition, so there won’t be any disruption. Here you can see the current Trans States route map via Diio by Cirium.
All of the Trans States flying is centered on Chicago and Denver today. The airline has about 75 to 80 daily departures out of Denver during the summer. This will now be a new station for ExpressJet. SkyWest flies the bulk of that operation now for United with a few flights from Republic, so this will add diversity in Denver.
In Chicago, Trans States flies 25 to 30 departures per day, but there ExpressJet already operates 50 of its own, so this just gives it a larger operation. GoJet, SkyWest, Republic, and Air Wisconsin already have sizable operations there too, so this consolidation isn’t a concern.
With these moves, Trans States will disappear for good as an airline. This is a company that started flying nearly 40 years ago as Resort Air. Its first regional partnership was out of St Louis as Trans World Express. It has flown for just about every airline over the years. Its AX code — and Waterski call sign — will likely be retired, but the Trans States name will live on.
Trans States Holdings remains the parent of GoJet and Compass. It’s actually GoJet’s success that is probably leading to the death of Trans States.
GoJet Needs Pilots
GoJet had been operating CRJ-700/900s for both United Express and Delta Connection, but the Delta partnership is ending. United gave the airline its big break with the invention of the CRJ-550, a CRJ-700 with only 50 seats.
GoJet said it would convert its 15 CRJ-700s flying for United into CRJ-550s, and then it would get another 39 sourced from elsewhere. Less than a week ago, the airline won another 20 airplanes to make for a total of 74 in the fleet.
In a letter from Trans States President Rick Leach to the employees, he explained:
…we are facing a Captain shortage that will result in an inability to meet our increased productivity objectives and even our current contractual flying obligations. The imbalance between Captains and First Officers is so extreme that earlier this month, the company took the unprecedented action of canceling a First Officer class already in session, while delaying others.
Though he doesn’t mention GoJet, he does say that “it is our ardent hope that you will choose to apply for openings at one of our other Holdings carriers or the Holdings company.”
United spokesperson Charles Hobart was more pointed in a statement he sent to me Update: The United statement was retracted and has been removed from the post
It says something that other airlines are able to hire pilots while Trans States struggles despite having similar pay rates. But from what I’ve heard through the grapevine, I believe it. The end of Trans States means the company can focus on staffing those higher-paying GoJet airplanes instead.
ExpressJet Loses Embraer 175s, SkyWest Gains
A year ago it would have sounded funny to see this piece of the news since SkyWest owned ExpressJet. But ExpressJet is now effectively owned by United (via subsidiaries due to labor regulations) and it will now focus solely on the Embraer 145. In other words, it’s a return to where it was back in the Continental Express days.
The contract flying CRJ-900s for Delta is already gone, so that leaves just the 25 Embraer 175s operating for United in the fleet outside of the ERJ-145s. Those 25 will go over to SkyWest.
Here’s the current ExpressJet route map.
As you can see, ExpressJet operates out of Chicago, Houston, and Newark. The green lines, however, are the Embraer 175 flying that is done solely from Chicago and Houston.
SkyWest already operates 35 daily flights from Chicago on the Embraer 175, and this will boost it up to 85. Republic also operates 13 on that fleet type there.
In Houston, SkyWest only flies 5 flights a day on this type, so this is going to give it a little more scale by adding another 4 per day. It’s still tiny compared to the Mesa behemoth and a few more on Republic.
In the end, this is a good deal for just about everyone. SkyWest gets more airplanes, ExpressJet wins some and loses some but has a net increase and can simplify its fleet, and while Trans States goes away, its brother GoJet will grow. Employees shouldn’t have trouble finding a job with all these shifts, though I can imagine those who are seniority-based having a harder time with the change unless there is an agreement for that to transfer.
As for United, it gets to cut down the number of Express operators by one while maintaining enough diversity in its hubs to avoid any airline-specific disruptions. This sounds like a win to me.